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Google stops censoring search in China

Google has 'made good on its promise' and redirected its Chinese search to an unfiltered site in Hong Kong - but China isn't pleased.

China

Google has taken the high road and made good on its threat to stop censoring search results in China.

As of yesterday, the Google search, news and image sites on the Chinese versions of the site are no longer being censored said David Drummond, vice president of corporate development and chief legal officer, in a blog post.

Anyone visiting Google.cn will be redirected to an uncensored site in simplified Chinese, based on the firm's Hong Kong servers. Users from that city will still see their regular search results.

"Due to the increased load on our Hong Kong servers and the complicated nature of these changes, users may see some slowdown in service or find some products temporarily inaccessible as we switch everything over," Drummond said.

The move comes over two months after Google threatened to stop censoring its Chinese results, after the web giant was one of 20 US-based firms to be hit by a cyber attacked they say came from China and targeted human rights activists.

"Figuring out how to make good on our promise to stop censoring search on Google.cn has been hard," Drummond admitted. "We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement."

"We believe this new approach of providing uncensored search in simplified Chinese from Google.com.hk is a sensible solution to the challenges we've faced it's entirely legal and will meaningfully increase access to information for people in China," he added.

Drummond said Google hopes the Chinese government "respects" Google's decision, but noted the government could block access at anytime. To keep an eye on access, Google has set up a web page that alerts the world to whether or not the new uncensored Google China search is still up and running.

Not surprisingly, China isn't pleased with the move. According to a BBC report, an official in the Chinese internet office said: "Google has violated its written promise it made when entering the Chinese market by stopping filtering its searching service and blaming China in insinuation for alleged hacker attacks."

"This is totally wrong. We're uncompromisingly opposed to the politicisation of commercial issues, and express our discontent and indignation to Google for its unreasonable accusations and conducts," the unnamed official added.

What about the workers?

Google said it plans to keep its business operating in China, including research and development and sales, but noted the latter will be affected by how many Chinese users are able to access the Hong Kong uncensored search.

"Finally, we would like to make clear that all these decisions have been driven and implemented by our executives in the United States, and that none of our employees in China can, or should, be held responsible for them," Drummond noted. Google has about 700 employees in the country.

"Despite all the uncertainty and difficulties they have faced since we made our announcement in January, they have continued to focus on serving our Chinese users and customers," he added. "We are immensely proud of them."

Read on for more about what could happen if Google leaves China and reaction to Google's anti-censorship move.

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